Message on International Human Rights Day 2008

Today is INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY– 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948.
 
There are many things we can say in seminars, many more demands we can make in rallies. But as people from India, and particularly from West Bengal, we today remind everyone of the fact that the name of India and Bengal repeatedly appear in the reports by all National and International organizations in connection with gross violation of basic human rights.
The main areas of concern are —

    
     CUSTODIAL DEATH
     HUMAN TRAFFICKING
     RELIGIOUS VIOLENCES
 

We are not going into statistics, but would like to point out that all actions of violence, torture, discrimination and such violation of human dignity can be properly addressed only with the basic judicial system of a country.


In this connection I give below a part of the report entitled

INDIA: Custodial deaths in West Bengal and India’s refusal to ratify the Convention against Torture


From this Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission – AHRC
named “Custodial deaths in West Bengal and India’s refusal to ratify the Convention against Torture”, we give only a very relevant portion in the conclusion to ponder. Please think, speak and demand for a change.


‘The conclusion goes to the root of the problems facing the judicial system in West Bengal: the police control every aspect of the judicial system. From the time of arrest to conviction, imprisonment or death, police run the show. Practically speaking, there is no independent judiciary in West Bengal. This runs contrary not only to the principles of the rule of law – to which the government of India claims to adhere – but also contrary to the Criminal Procedure Code, which was rewritten in 1973 with the express intention that the judiciary be severed from other parts of government.


Under these circumstances, India’s repeated refusal to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment on the grounds that there are adequate provisions in existing laws to prevent torture and attendant abuses is disgraceful. As apparent from the cases above, torture, custodial death and other horrendous abuses during police custody in India go hand in hand. The perpetrators of these acts go free because no law exists to effectively address them, and ensure redress for the victims and their families. As a result, at present the best one can hope for at present is a few overdue rupees to assuage any sense of further responsibility by the state. It is hardly surprising that justice remains a dream for most and that the payment of a small amount of compensation for a couple of victims be portrayed as an act of magnanimity, rather than a piecemeal gesture from a thoroughly corrupted system.

This must change. Any suggestion that the existing legal system in India is adequately equipped to address custodial abuses of this sort is an insult to the intelligence and human integrity of millions who daily experience otherwise. India must ratify the Convention against Torture without delay, and bring it into domestic law together with the necessary institutional changes to see it implemented. When acts of torture and degrading treatment by the police are at last treated with the gravity they deserve, so too will custodial deaths diminish, conditions in lock-ups be improved, cases properly investigated, victims properly compensated, and perpetrators punished.”


– Asian Human Rights Commission
Posted on 2004-03-01

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